The Beautiful Process Behind Erik Johansson's Surreal Images

I haven't been writing very much lately, but when Swedish Commercial Photographer Erik Johansson hit me with an email about his recent creation, I had to stop and take notice. And I'm not the only one. For the third chapter of their miniseries, "Human Made Stories," Volvo (in partnership with Sky Atlantic) spent three days this summer documenting Erik's process as he breathed life into his latest piece, "Wake Up." Volvo's miniseries features defiant pioneers who inspire, do things differently, challenge conventions, and blaze their own trail. Yup, that sounds like Erik to me.

I think creating pieces like this is about problem-solving. Every problem can be broken down into smaller problems. Trying to see the small parts and that's how you make it come to life.

Watching this beautifully produced Volvo ad will give you an good sense of who Erik is as an artist and of how much work goes into each of his composite photographs. All the images were taken with Erik's Hasselblad H6D-50c and then combined using Photoshop, that is after trees were first chopped down and placed in a calm 4 a.m. lake, the model shot separately in a swimming pool using similar natural light, and the canopy below the water's surface captured from a cherry picker. All those things had to happen before being masterfully blended together by Erik himself. If this doesn't spark the photographer in your soul then, I'm not sure what would inspire you.  

I think saying that something is impossible is wrong. It's just hasn't been figured out how you can do it yet. 

Keep up with Erik via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram​.

Copyright 2016 | All Images by Erik Johansson and used with permission. | Erik's website



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Jason Crockett's picture

Glad I clicked this link. Great little video by Volvo, and you are right Kenn Tam, how can you not be sparked by the video and what Erik does. Great stuff. The other two videos are so well done as well and should inspire a lot of people.

Mark Harris's picture

I visited his exhibition in Stockholm, and seeing his images full-size is amazing. It's a long time since I've been so inspired by a photographer. He's a true artist and craftsman.

Thierry Bordet's picture

While i know trees get cut for many reasons in many places in the world, just for a stupid photo? He could have proven better skill and done the tree reflections in photoshop without having to cut them. Sad, though his pics are nice the means aren't justified
And yes i know there sre tons of trees in Sweden, but i am sure there is an envitonmental frienlier way, every ltittle step counts

Bruno Silva's picture


Luke Wilcox's picture

Nice video. I think this really highlights the difference between taking pictures and photography as a craft. Anyone can take a photo, but the level at which you can call yourself an artist requires something else.

Samten Norbù's picture

It's always interesting to hear people saying how thing's are easy to do and some inspirational cote ... when, obviously, they don't have any issues to "make things happen" ... Creativity is sure an important point ...
But obviously when you have access to nice ( and super expensive) gear, live in a nice area with nice landscapes, you can ride hours in a nice an fancy car, pay large prints ... sure it's not the same than when you "just" have your creativity ...
My creative work is mainly stuck on my hard drive because I'm not rich enough to pay for large print for exhibition ...
... bref ... I hate when some people come with a "it easy to do big things" when they don't have to struggle with triviality of daily issues like ... pay your rent and eat ...

Mikael Grahn's picture

Sure - Erik Johansson has resources now, but he has worked for it a long time, i live in Sweden and i have followed his work for a period of about 10 years. When he started with composites he did it like most of us do, in a small way, and then he has worked his way towards the top.

But as you say, with resources it is easier, but it so more rewarding to do great pictures with small resources, and makes the "wow" factor bigger when we succeed.

Samten Norbù's picture

It's not a critic about his work, but just about the "inspirational quote" effect :)
I have no issues with successful people at all :) but "success" is a multi layer thing where "the power of will" is only a small part of it ...